A contented life

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Letting go of regret, resentment and anger can lead to contentment, happiness and peace

Photo: Purvi Joshi

Everyone would like to lead a contented, happy and peaceful life. Whatever our economic situation may be, we value the experience of a happy contented life that gives us peace, more than anything else. Sometimes achieving this wish could be hindered by the intrusion of some debilitating negative emotions, of which we may not even be aware. Surprisingly, once we become aware of these negative emotions, we can work towards getting rid of them. This is the most important first step and the quickest way to enjoy the peace we seek. We need not look for something outside of our self, but getting rid of something negative that already exists in our thinking can make us truly happy.

Unresolved issues have a habit of resurfacing and upsetting our balance unexpectedly. It is vital that we learn to deal with them. The two most common that unsettle us are regrets and resentments.

There are many times in our lives when we look back and think, ‘if only…’; ‘perhaps I should have….’. There may be many regrets. The thought that something could have been done differently, something that was under your control and was not done, surfaces from time to time. Sometimes it may be even something one said that need not have been said. Sadly, we cannot remedy that action. It happened in the past. This means we cannot turn the clock back. The time has gone by when the right thing to do would have been to apologise or make amends. A quick apology or some form of redeeming action could have righted the wrong.

Years later, if this thought re-occurs, it would seem that it still has some importance in your thinking, subtly influencing your life, and it warrants attention.

While regrets are always about disappointment with oneself, resentment is almost always directed towards another. It is a feeling that is a mixture of annoyance, anger, envy and even hatred. Quite often it follows an actual incident when one may have been belittled, or perhaps even perceived as such. Almost always the resented person is initially someone who was held in high esteem or is of a higher status. It can surface when this person is praised or seen as exceptional. Sometimes it can occur within a family or in a work situation when one’s achievements may be overlooked, while others are given preferential treatment. In emotional relationships, rejection or perceived rejection by another can also cause resentments. In social situations, resentment is often experienced when there is perceived inequality and unfairness, and can trigger conflicts that are hard to appease. Quite often this is the trigger for resistance and hostility within communities, as can be often seen in international conflicts and even local communities.

The disappointment of a real or perceived incident triggers a sequence of negative emotions that fester and lead to an unpleasant state of mind, sometimes with even more dire consequent actions.

Effects of harbouring regrets and resentments

Regrets are often one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction about one’s life. An opportunity lost always has a habit of surfacing when one feels in a particularly low mood. When things don’t go the way one wants, we start regretting a lost chance when something could have been done differently. The habitual delving into the past brings up many ‘if only….’ statements. Very quickly this results in a sense of frustration and anger towards oneself. Occasionally it is directed outwards at the person or persons who may have triggered this frustration. This can result in a sense of hopelessness and sadness. There is a ‘lost look’ about a person who is unable to focus on the present. Lack of motivation, difficulty in enjoying achievements and a general apathy can be experienced when regrets are not dealt with and resolved.

Resentments, on the other hand, tend to be felt more when it is towards a loved one. To be hurt by a friend or someone you have been close to creates a sense of betrayal and sadness that one is unable to express. Turning all this inwards leads to several unproductive feelings such as becoming cynical, being sarcastic and even a loss of trust in general. Sometimes this can result in a loss of self-confidence and lead to communication difficulties. Particularly when it is perceived as caused by a loved one or family member, future communication with that person is lost. Resentments are obstacles that can cause major damage psychologically.

What can be done?

Firstly, we need to be honest with ourselves. A bit of soul-searching could unearth resentments we may hold against persons that may have contributed to our sense of anger or annoyance from time to time, when in their company. It is possible that something was misread or misunderstood. Looking at them objectively, one needs to realise how debilitating these resentments have been in one’s life. Perhaps the time has come for forgiveness and the need to let go of the incident. Realising the powerful negative effects that resentments have been influencing all areas of life, one has to realise that it is of utmost importance to face them and get rid of them by letting go. This is by no means easy. However, one has a lot to gain by getting rid of resentments so life may go on more happily.

Regrets can perhaps be best handled by accepting that certain decisions were made that seemed best at the time. Acceptance and learning to move on is the most constructive thing one can do.

Regrets and resentments are very destructive. To become aware of their presence and learn to tackle them and get rid of them is the best thing one can do to gain a content, happy and peaceful life.

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